Brown trip clears the air with allies
Washington — US Defense Secretary Harold Brown has reassured five major US allies that the United States has both the strength and the will to help defend them, while warning that any "neutralization" in Western Europe could lead to Soviet domination of all Europe.
Secretary Brown delivered this message in a French television interview in Paris before returning to his Pentagon desk July 2 from otherwise largely unpublicized defense talks in Europe. These were spread over six weeks preceding and following the Western summit talks in Venice in early June.
In meetings with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Italian Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga, and their defense ministers, and a Geneva session with Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Prince Sultan, Secretary Brown managed to clarify a number of previously murky issues.
Among them, say analysts here:
* President Giscard d'Estaing and Chancellor Schmidt -- both of whom, like President Carter, face elections in the months ahead -- showed strong understanding for the President's desire to move as rapidly as possible to modernize the West's theater nuclear forces in Europe. Belgium, the Netherlands , and Denmark have reservations or are delaying a NATO decision of last Dec. 12 deploy 572 new US nuclear missiles in Europe to offset a growing Soviet missile buildup targeted on Europe.
However, Chancellor Schmidt (who returned from Moscow July 1 without convincing the Soviets to halt their missile deployments), well realizes the impossibility, US officials say, of the three-year "freeze" he earlier proposed on deployment of the new US missiles while trying to get arms-control talks going with the soviets.
France, while sticking by its 1966 decision to keep its nuclear forces independent of NATO or US supervision, is working quietly with the US and other Western governments in many defense fields, in Europe as well as in Africa and the Indian Ocean. But it wants no publicity for this cooperation.
Mr. Giscard d'Estaing's recent announcement that France will develop its own mobile strategic missile and consider producing enhanced-radiation (neutron) warheads is pleasing to both the US and West Germany. it gets them both "off the hook" of possibly having to be the first to propose this politically unpopular weapon again.
Senior allied military planners consider neutron weapons may become of key importance in repelling any massive Warsaw PAct tank attack on Western Europe. president Carter ordered its production delayed in 1978 after earlier European opposition, although West Germany had approved it.
Unlike France, Britain's strategic nuclear forces, including bombers and four ballistic missile submarines, are under NATO command. Britain has not yet taken a final decision on an extensive and costly upgrading of these forces which Mrs. Thatcher has proposed, though it has already accepted deploying US cruise missiles at several named sites.
The Italian government indicated no objections to deployment of new US missiles in Italy.Despite a vocal Communist opposition, Italy's Socialist defense minister "spoke like a conservative" when he talked defense with Secretary Brown, one source said.
In a long meeting with Saudi Depense Minister Prince Sultan, Secretary Brown was told that the Saudis fear Soviet military moves toward their oil fields, and this was why they want to upgrade F-15 aircraft the US agreed to sell them in 1978.
Israel's supporters here have promised a fight to the finish in Congress against the new F-15 weaponry.